Jumper

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

I remember saying that to myself after failing the prelim jump for the airbag jump at Attitash. I had looked down, psyched myself out, and jumped feet first instead of flipping onto my back. I said it to myself when I first learned drops in aerial, when I’d clutch the silk tight and refuse to let go, every inch of me screaming, “You’ll die if you do this.”

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

It’s a cold, windy day on the structure. The other jumpers are bantering in French. I’m the sole English-only speaker on the rig. I’m trying to focus on the cadence of French Canadian dialogue, the rolling hills around me, the peaceful highway to the right of me.

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

The man strapping us into our harnesses switches to English when he realizes I don’t speak French. The people around me shift in how they speak, too. We get to talking about jumping and sky diving and adrenaline and nerves. For most of us, it’s our first time. We all have that giddy energy, the kind that deliberately forces the rise in adrenaline towards a specific path: excited. Certainly not anxious. Certainly not.

I’m third to last, which gives me way too much time to ponder. As the numbers dwindle, the conversations get a little more intimate. Like the last people on a sinking ship, absorbing as much humanity as they can before it’s their time.

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

When it’s my turn, they ask if I want to dip into the water. I’m shivering, but I agree. I’d rather be even colder until I can change my clothes than regret not adding that in.

I think I’m ready, but I realize how unprepared I actually am when I’m strapped in. I shuffle to the edge. Now I understand: this is why people chicken out at the last minute, why my friend’s girlfriend had to be literally tossed off the edge when she did it.

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

I’m the only one who gets an English countdown. I attempt a jump, but it ends up looking more like a lean. Doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m off the rig. Canada’s highest jump. No going back now.

I think of all the times I’ve wondered what it would be like to jump from something really high up. Not just a cliff by the water or the airbag jump at a ski resort. Hundreds and hundreds of feet up. Now I know — I know the gut-dropping shock and the sensation like you are now above the laws of physics.

That is, until cord catches you. I hit the water — my forearms and forehead submerge, the water shockingly warm — and flip back up.

I yell more on the flip than I did on the jump. I go parallel with the water before falling again. At this point, it all feels like old hat. Which is funny — didn’t feel like old hat 30 seconds ago.

I’m like a little kid by the time the boat takes me and drops me off at the dock. Darting up the stairs two at a time and skipping when I reach the top, giddy. I practically shout out to Isaac, “And THIS is why I do stuff like this!!”

Stuff like this. Stuff that surges the adrenaline and makes me panic at the last minute and makes me go, “Why the hell did I sign up for this? Why the hell do I do these things that I do to myself!?”

The stuff that makes me giddy, reminds me how wonderful it is to be alive, to be able to experience such things. Stuff that reminds me to look straight ahead, clear your mind, and be bold enough to do the jump, even if it looks more like a lean into the unknown.

Onward.

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